Friday, June 22, 2012

A murder of crows

I’m going to comment on Jeff’s updated post:

In reply, notice two things. First, Hays refers to "what he [Lowder] regards as mistreatment of atheists" and "(alleged) offenses" without actually acknowledging the "mistreatment" is actual, not "alleged." Does he deny that these instances are mistreatment?

Yes, I deny that. Thus far, the examples Jeff has given strike me as instances of political incorrectness.

Is he so opposed to atheists that he is unwilling to condemn mistreatment, even when he agrees it is mistreatment? Is there another reason?

Well that’s an odd accusation. Remember, I said these were “alleged” offenses. Since I don’t agree with Jeff’s characterization, there’s nothing for me to condemn.

Let’s take the current instance, which he finds so outrageous.  A blogger named Mariano Grinbank used the phrase “a murder of atheists.” To forestall misunderstanding, Mariano defined his usage. He said it was analogous to the idiomatic collective noun “a murder of crows”–which is the name of a movie, a rock album, a PBS documentary, and a Warcraft episode. Given his explanation, and the popularity of the idiom, I don’t see why Jeff finds that so shocking.

It’s not a phrase I’d use, but then, I’m not a young Argentinean-American Messianic Jew, or former practitioner of Reiki, Tai Chi Chuan, Chi Kung and the I'Ching., so that phrase doesn’t come naturally to me. My enculturation is different from Mariano’s.

Second, Hays seems (?) to assume that if two people (P1 and P2) accept contradictory normative ethical systems, but both systems agree that an action A is wrong (even if for different reasons), it's unreasonable for P1 to ask P2 to condemn A. I find that bizarre. If they both agree that A is wrong, even if for different reasons, then surely they can both condemn A. If P2 claims to believe that A is wrong, then P2 already has a reason to condemn; P2 should condemn A because P2 believes A is wrong.

Several issues:

i) The question at issue is not whether both of them can condemn it. The question, rather, is why Jeff wants Christians to condemn it.

ii) Likewise, there’s a difference between two people having different, but mutually consistent reasons for condemning the same thing, and two people having divergent reasons for condemning the same thing.

iii) Apropos (ii), most atheists I’m aware of are politically liberal. However, it’s possible for an atheist to be politically conservative. Some atheists are libertarians or Randians. Keith Burgess-Jackson is an example of an atheist who’s generally center-right.

Suppose, for the sake of argument, that Jeff is politically conservative. Let’s say he opposes affirmative action in college admissions. Maybe he opposes affirmative action because he thinks identity-politics is arbitrary, incoherent, socially destructive, and/or counterproductive.

Still, I doubt he’d be doing posts like Where is the Outcry from the KKK? or The Hypocrisy of Skinheads.

Even though white supremacist groups would share his opposition to affirmative action in college admissions, from Jeff’s standpoint they’d oppose affirmative action for the wrong reasons. Disreputable reasons. Indeed, I think he’d be at pains to disassociate his opposition to affirmative action from their opposition to affirmative action.

By the same token, why does Jeff want Christians to condemn alleged mistreatment of atheists if they are doing so for all the wrong reasons? From his standpoint, even when Christian ethics happens to be right, it is right for the wrong reasons. Right on the wrong grounds.


  1. Vegans and Vegetarians would like Jeff to join him in condemning the phrase, "A murder of crows."

  2. As the risk of being niggardly, sounds like Jeff is w-w-w-w-whiiiiining!

  3. Yeah, I'm actually in favor of respect for the respectful, but come freaking on. A murder of atheists? That's funny at best, petty at worst, and compared to the typical cult of Gnu antics, tremendously light.